Celebrity Restaurateur Gordon Ramsay Shares His Secrets for Restaurant Success
Education and Careers The Michelin-starred chef and reality television titan talks restaurant ambiance, the seasonality of produce and cooking the perfect steak.
Gordon Ramsay is the king of the restaurant world. With 33 restaurants worldwide, he’s built an empire on his passion and grit. However, according to Ramsay, success in cooking can be achieved through detail, hard work and consistency.
Keys to success
“For me, it’s all about the attention to detail...”
“It has to start off with the attention to detail,” Ramsay says of the common thread amongst all successful restaurants. “Not only putting the customer first but realizing that customers vote with their feet. The success for me of any great, local restaurant is having it full on a Monday night.” Ramsay, who studied in Paris under Michelin-starred chefs Guy Savoy and Joël Robuchon, has had sixteen Michelin stars awarded to his restaurants.
“A great restaurant will recognize locals instantly, understand how much time they have to dine in that restaurant,” continues Ramsay, “and then, for me, it’s all about the attention to detail — the specials to the cocktails to the lighting to the music to the seating arrangements.” Beyond attention to detail, consistency, great service and quality lighting and bathrooms are keys to success in any restaurant. “Lighting creates the most amazing atmosphere.”
Throughout his career, Ramsay has had the good fortune to cook for a number of famous names. At Aubergine in the early 1990s, “One particular lunchtime, a Thursday lunchtime, at five past one, in walks Lady Di.” Ramsay was asked to cook for Nelson Mandela’s 90th birthday in South Africa and in London. After being awarded an Order of the British Empire, Ramsay was invited to cook a lunch for President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Tony Blair. “It was this random, sort of weird, bizarre lunch, standing in between these two guys, thinking, ‘I’m just the cook… What am I doing here?’”
Ramsay has opened restaurants all over the world. His first, Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, opened in 1998 in Chelsea, London, and his most recent was Gordon Ramsay’s Hell’s Kitchen, which opened in 2018 (marking his fifth launch in Las Vegas, Nevada). Ramsay recently announced his newest venture, Gordon Ramsay Steak, in Atlantic City.
Trust the process
“Every time you open a restaurant, you open it with passion. You localize it to what’s happening with the purveyors and producers locally.” One common mistake a lot of restaurants make is not respecting the seasonality of produce. “Giving that kind of respect to the produce on the menu creates a lot more excitement going through the seasons with your customers, but more importantly, it keeps the chef on their toes, where they get seriously creative.”
Inaccurate pricing can also prevent a restaurant from reaching greatness. According to Ramsay, pricing should reflect the total experience of the meal. If it's too high, that sets an impossible precedent the restaurant must strive to meet.
While cooking can be consumed by the latest trends — like foam, which Ramsay detests — the simple things often succeed. Ramsay finds the smell of freshly baked bread arresting upon walking into a restaurant. Cooking something seemingly intimidating like a steak can be broken down to something simple: room temperature meat, salt and pepper and a searing hot pan. “A secret behind any great steak is in the resting, you know, resting it for as long as you’ve cooked it.”
“I absolutely drilled every member of my staff to understand to never serve mistakes and to keep customers waiting an extra ten minutes rather than send a mistake under pressure,” advises Ramsay. “Never send your mistakes.”